Ask a seasoned poker player and he’ll be sure to tell you that poker is a relatively easy game to learn. However, it can take a lifetime to master. Unlike most casino games, poker is not based on chance, but requires players to acquire a range of skills in order to prevail against their opponents. Basic skills required include reading your opponents, the ability to maintain focus for long periods of time, an adequate understanding of mathematical probability, and the ability to control one’s emotions.
Never underestimate the power of observation
The main idea in poker is to get as much information as possible from your opponents without actually disclosing it. One way to achieve this is to closely follow the reactions of the other players and observe how they behave in certain situations. By carefully observing how each of your opponents play different pots, you can pick out a few key tells related to their style of play. What you need to keep in mind are the gestures and facial expressions that your opponents display as the game progresses and that can come in handy.
One such indication is the so-called “slanting” when a teammate bends forward on the pre-flop after checking the hole cards that have been awarded. This bias can mean that the player is happy with their starting hand and preparing for the flop. In this case, unless you have a hand that you think is exceptionally strong, it is best to fold. Watching your opponent’s eyes is equally important. If someone else’s eyes are shooting their chips immediately after the flop, it could mean they are preparing for action because the flop has improved their hand significantly.
Avoid getting predictable
Bluffing is what many poker players resort to, usually when they think their hand is not good enough. While bluffing is indeed an integral part of poker, overdoing it is by no means an appropriate course of action. When you bluff, you risk becoming too predictable in the eyes of your opponents, which will sooner or later render your bluffs ineffective.
It is important to remember that the main purpose of the bluff is to get your opponent to fold. This is unlikely to happen if he is holding a hand he thinks is superior, regardless of how hard you try to intimidate him. The purpose of a good poker player is to vary his style as much as possible and be less conventional so that his opponents cannot choose tells from them. Predictability is exactly what would make you exploitable and therefore an easy target for your opponents.